I want to live in a world without email. I wonder if that world exists anywhere except in the backwoods of West Virginia or in a padded room somewhere. I wonder how emailing so quickly took over our lives as quickly as it did. A couple of decades ago email was not the number one venue for communication. Back then, folks still used home phones (some even had cords). Cell phones used to be a travel luxury, not an every moment necessity. And email was just a novel new way to send a note that was used primarily by the movers and shakers of the world.
But now, everyone emails everything. Electronic communication has shut down the need for printed bills and receipts, become the deliverer of birthday cards, emerged as the mechanism by which retailers reach you, and become the one-stop shop for the vast majority of business and personal communication. Well, stop the world – I want to get off. I am sick of email. I have been sick of email for years. It is the black hole of need.
In a conversation with a couple of administrators at NDSU recently the comment was made that no one reads email. I was told that at best, email in-boxes get a cursory scan and things that pop out get opened. The rest of the emails fall into the abyss that is the in-box. I hear the same thing from students. Apparently, others are managing the email avalanche by ignoring it as recipients; but, I can’t ignore emails from either administrators or students even if they ignore mine.
I think email has an unintended consequence. I believe the purpose of email was to improve efficiency, but it has instead blossomed into one of the most time-consuming aspects of most folks’ daily lives. Email takes away from the ability to do other things you enjoy and the ability to spend face-to-face time with the people you want to spend time with – like I said, it is a black hole of need.
I have increasingly been pondering what a world without email would be like. Being in the new forty, I have a reference for what such a world looks like. I have lived in that world. I know I sound like an old curmudgeon when I say that the 24/7 access to anyone, anywhere via technology is not the fabulous thing we are being told it is. I know I am dangerously close to being extinct when I lament that there was value in less access. Yet, I cannot imagine that I am alone in feeling this way. I know that young folks have only known this, but there are others who have known other realities – others that like me that wonder what the fallout of all this access is.
As for me, I am thinking that places with no Internet access are increasingly alluring. I have been pondering the implications of clearing out all the emails in my two primary email account in-boxes and email files (to the tune of over 10,000 emails). Would I miss any of those emails if they were gone? Would I be liberated? Or would they just repopulate like tribbles on the Star Trek Enterprise?
I want to start a revolution. I want to be a conscientious objector as it applies to this hijacking of our lives. I want to challenge people to reexamine the value they have placed on access and the burden that comes with it. I want to preserve and revive what dinosaurs like me know has value. I am not sure how to do that, yet. But I am thinking long and hard about it, and I will come up with a better way. I will let you know what I come up with…and no, I won’t email it to you. 😉
Day one thousand three hundred and ninety-seven of the new forty – obla di obla da